Millions of Americans could wait months for mailed stimulus checks, IRS tells Dems

It could take up to 20 weeks for the IRS to mail paper checks starting May 4.

April 2, 2020, 9:06 PM

Millions of Americans could wait months for stimulus checks from the federal government, according to a House Democratic memo obtained by ABC News.

With millions of Americans unemployed in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the extended timeline for the delivery of paper checks could spell trouble for some eligible Americans.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Internal Revenue Service would begin direct coronavirus payments to taxpayers "within two weeks," after suggesting on Sunday they would be directly deposited in the bank accounts of Americans who had shared their banking information with the IRS within three weeks.

In a memo summarizing conversations with the Treasury Department and IRS -- and circulated on Capitol Hill ahead of Mnuchin's announcement -- House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee said the IRS would make payments to roughly 60 million Americans through direct deposits, through the information on their 2018 and 2019 tax returns, and that the agency would begin issuing paper checks to individuals three weeks later, in early May.

PHOTO: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, March 25, 2020, in Washington.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, March 25, 2020, in Washington.
Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

The IRS expects to issue five million paper checks per week, Democrats said in their memo, adding that it would take 20 weeks to mail out all checks to eligible Americans.

They will be sent out to people with the lowest incomes first, according to the memo.

On Thursday, Mnuchin pushed back against Democrats' claims about the timeline in a White House briefing, without offering specifics about the length of the entire process.

"Let me just say when Obama sent out these checks it took months and months and months," he said. "If we have your information, you’ll get it within two weeks. Social security, you'll get it very quickly after that."

"If we don't have your information, you'll have a simple web portal, you’ll upload it. If we don't have that, we'll send you checks in the mail," he added.

Tax experts have been skeptical of the timeline put forward by the Trump administration. It took three months for stimulus payments to go out in 2008 after the passage of legislation.

"It generally takes several months for the IRS to develop and test the programming systems to determine the rebate amounts -- a task which is complicated by the ongoing filing season, and the pressures processing 2019 tax returns places on the existing computer capacities," Janet Holzblatt of the Tax Policy Center told ABC News.

"This is uncharted waters -- similar types of rebates were not paid in the midst of the filing season," she said.

What to know about coronavirus:

Related Topics